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'Truthe is the beste'

A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt


Edited By Nicolas Jacobs and Gerald Morgan

The thirteen essays in this book, presented in honour of Dr A.V.C. (Carl) Schmidt, are designed to reflect the range of his interests. Dr Schmidt, who was a Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford from 1972 until his retirement in 2011, is best known for his comprehensive four-text edition of Piers Plowman, the fruit of a lifetime’s work on that text. He has also made a major contribution to the study of Chaucer and the medieval English contemplatives, and these authors also find a place in this collection. The essays presented here are intended to build upon the legacy of Carl Schmidt’s exemplary scholarship.
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Julian of Norwich and Medieval English Visual Culture


← 184 | 185 → BARRY WINDEATT

It has often been wondered whether and how Julian of Norwich was influenced by the contemporary visual arts which she may have seen around her in Norwich.2 There is ample evidence for a particularly flourishing devotional culture in medieval Norwich with its cathedral priory, houses of the four orders of friars, one Benedictine nunnery, various secular colleges and hospitals, and its especially high number of parish churches.3 This vibrant culture of devotion was in turn the context for many artistic commissions, and on the basis of what survives much of this work will have been of exceptional quality.4 Julian of Norwich – who lived at the heart of this thriving centre of artistic activity and achievement in late medieval Norwich – shows in her writing a particularly vivid sense of the visual, with the power to leave intensely realized images in the minds of her readers. But the possibility of influences on Julian from the contemporary arts is usually discounted for lack of evidence. At first sight, there are few surviving artworks which support close comparison with Julian’s writing, and many potentially relevant East Anglian works probably post-date Julian’s lifetime.

This essay attempts a different approach to the nature of a possible relationship between the arts and Julian’s writing. In the absence of many models for influence from known paintings upon Julian’s writing, it focuses instead on some structural parallels and stylistic analogies, comparing common patterns in uses of iconographical conventions as well as...

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